Year End Countdown #8 — What The Heck’s Going On Down There?
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Today’s post features a second bird + ant story. Go figure.
American Kestrels are among the most difficult of birds to photograph. These little falcons give whole new meaning to the term “high strung.” A kestrel almost never sits long enough to have its picture taken. Just the act of poking a lens through an open car window is enough to spook one of these birds. Their jumpiness is accentuated by the fact that they have amazingly acute eyesight and an almost uncanny ability to detect motion. I can recount hundreds of stories of failed attempts to photograph this species.
So, I was thrilled one day back in April when I encountered a male kestrel sitting on a berm alongside the road who seemed preoccupied with other matters and who ignored me for some seconds while I took his picture. The kestrel looked down between his legs as if engaging in some sort of self examination, squirmed around a bit, and then flew, but not before I’d taken a half dozen or so nice shots. Nonetheless, I was surprised that the kestrel had — at least for a few seconds — other things on his mind than the photographers parked right next to him.
It was only later that I discovered what was going on with this bird. Look very closely at the kestrel’s legs.
You’ll see that on the inside of the bird’s right leg there’s an ant crawling just where the feathers end and the skin begins. There’s a second ant on the outside of the kestrel’s left foot. It’s unclear to me whether this kestrel had been stung or was just sensitive to the movement of the ants as they crawled on him. My hat’s off to the ants for making this image possible. I’m positive that without the distraction they caused the kestrel would have flown long before I could have taken his picture.
Image made with a Canon 5Diii, 400mm DO+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f6.3 @ 1/5000.